Finding a Home to Match Your Personality


When it comes to finding the right fit for your personality, shopping for a new home is no different than shopping for a new car or even a pair of shoes. There is no question that particular home styles attract certain personalities, and determining your preference can be a great starting point in your search that will also guide you towards the perfect place to call home.   Take look at five common housing styles found throughout the Chicagoland area to help potential buyers find their perfect match.

American Colonial

Colonial style homes have a very distinct and patriotic look to them.  The classic architecture often includes a tall and rectangular façade with clean lines and symmetric columns flanking a prominent front door.  This style may appeal to a buyer with traditional values on a quest to achieve the American Dream.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod’s are a popular cottage style homes derived from New England and often associated with steep pitched roofs, cedar shake shingles, large dormers and charming shutters.   These cozy homes are often on the smaller side and may attract a single buyer or a small family who is drawn to the country-side lifestyle.  If your perfect Friday night entails sitting by the fire catching up on a good book, then a cape cod might be ideal for you!


Victorian inspired architecture is often vertical, ornamented and European looking in nature.  Standard Victorian characteristics often include wrap around porches, towers and a lot of color.  If your favorite U.S. city is San Francisco and you’re eclectic, detail oriented and like to stand out in the crowd, this may be the perfect style choice.

Row Home

Row homes are most known for being narrow and tall with multiple levels.  They are often found in cities, where space is limited and houses are required to be closely connected.  It is no secret that someone who may be attracted to this style of home is a city dweller who is social, appreciates being surrounded by people and likes a separation of space.  There are also great advantages to living in a row home, like rooftop decks, plenty of sun light and an urban-suburban feel to living.


Contemporary architecture is for someone who likes clean lines, glass and windows galore and open floor plans.  The perfect buyer for a modern house might be someone who is artsy, innovative, an entertainer and a lover of natural light.

American Colonial – Glencoe, IL – Claire Sucsy
American Colonial – Wilmette, IL – Annie Flanagan
Cape Cod – Western Springs, IL listed by Dave and Kathy Ricordati
Cape Cod – Hinsdale, IL listed by Anne Madden
Victorian – Chicago, IL listed by Jennifer Ames
Victorian – Wilmette, IL listed by Coldwell Banker Residential
Row Home – Chicago, IL listed by Chaz Walters
Row Home – Chicago, IL listed by Maura Vrabel
Ultra Modern – New Buffalo, MI listed by Chad Gradowski
Ultra Modern – Chicago, IL listed by Coldwell Banker Residential

Coffee Break with Fran Broude

Coffee Break with Fran Broude

President, COO

Fran Broude President, COO

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: How to create more time in the day to leverage all the opportunities available to us. Technology and social media have opened up a whole new world of possibilities and we are constantly finding new ways of utilizing them to better serve our clients.

Q: As a local business, what has been your company’s biggest obstacle during the recession?

A: It’s no secret that the housing marketing has been extremely challenging over the past few years. The demographics of both buyers and sellers have changed dramatically and as a result, we have dedicated our resources to developing the tools our agents need to adapt to these changes. We invested in technology that gives them the resources to better market and sell properties.

Q: What is one important tip you would give someone just starting in the business today?

A: Building a business is all about relationships. It’s important to be persistent in relationship building which means making an effort to constantly communicate with family, friends, business associates and the people you interact with each and every day. Keeping in touch is so easy today due to a variety of social media sites, email and even written notes.

Q: Who is your biggest/best customer?

A: Quite simply, it’s our agents. They have great enthusiasm and passion and work very hard for their clients and the communities they serve. They are by far our most valuable asset and I am so proud to say that the best agents in our industry call Coldwell Banker home.

Q: How has business been this past year? 

A: The residential real estate market has been steadily improving. Due to a shortage in the inventory of homes and interest rates that remain at a record low, homes are selling fast and furious across the Chicagoland area!

Q: What is the key to your company’s success? 

A: Our agents and managers are the heartbeat of our organization. They are dedicated and committed to not only Coldwell Banker, but also their clients which make for a successful partnership.

Q: If you could put your company name on any sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: The United Center or US Cellular Field. We have wonderful partnerships with the Chicago White Sox and Blackhawks and our name appears at both venues frequently.

Q: What was your first paying job?

A:  I started a summer camp for neighborhood children in my parents’ backyard with one of my girlfriends. We planned all the activities for the kids and ran the camp for several summers. I was also a cashier at a local grocery store.

Originally posted by Kim Mikus the Daily Herald Business Ledger 

Creating a Work Life Balance in Real Estate

– Guest blogger: Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist

With the real estate market gaining traction, agents are busier than ever which made me wonder…how do they balance it all? It takes a special person to become successful real estate agent and a successful partner, parent and friend. So I decided to seek out one of our sales associates who’s balancing it all and ask them for a couple pointers.

That’s when I met Maria Del Boccio. She’s not only one of the top agents in our Northwest office, but she also has a husband and four young daughters (8, 5, 4 and 2 years old!) So what are her secrets?

  1. Strong work ethic. Maria is a first generation American and she learned by example that “you can’t make a bottle of olive oil from just one olive.” It takes work. Her parents worked 24/7 and instilled in her that strong work ethic. It is also extremely important to Maria to set an example for her girls.
  2. Schedule with a purpose. If one of her daughters has a concert or event, she always carves out that time in her schedule even though she may still have her phone on. If it’s an important event, she changes her voicemail to say, “I’ll be available after 2 pm,” in order to manage her clients’ expectations.
  3. Strong support system. Maria couldn’t stress enough that she couldn’t do it without the love and support of her husband who is an Arlington Heights Police Officer. He works the opposite of her schedule and often is able to take the kids to events or the park when she has a showing or closing. She said his support is the reason she is able to have both a career and a family.
  4. Set your own goals. Maria said that one of the reasons she was attracted to real estate was that “no one tells you what your maximum potential is. If you want to sell 1 house a year, sell 1 house a year. If you want to sell 100, then sell 100. ” You are your own boss and control your own schedule, so it’s important to set those goals.
  5. Focus on one thing at a time. Another golden rule is — focus. She said she’ll focus on dinner and bedtime, then go to the office after the kids are in bed. Make the time and create the separation.
  6. Business imitates life. Life imitates business. Being a real estate agent means you have the opportunity to integrate work into your normal life. The relationships you build at church, the store, baseball league or a volunteer organizations can translates to a listing or a sale.  In Maria’s case, she’s built a business around her children’s school. She said it’s important to go to the school in her work clothes instead of flip flops and yoga pants. In your work attire, they see you as a mom and as a professional. Over the years, she’s nurtured those relationships and said she probably receives “a deal a week” from those school connections. Administrators even send referrals to her when they know a family is looking to move into the area!

Maria assured me that it does take struggle, hard work and energy, but that achieving that balance is possible. So focus on one thing at a time and create your own path to a happy work/life balance. 

Chef Charlie Trotter Hosts One Last Hurrah at His Historic Restaurant

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you know by now that the restaurant of the award-winning chef, TV host, author and philanthropist Charlie Trotter sadly closed its doors in the fall of 2012.  After 25 years of leading the kitchen and business operations of his famed restaurant Charlie Trotter’s, Trotter recently enlisted Coldwell Banker agents  Suzanne Gignilliat and Bruce Heller to put the property on the market for $3.8 million. But, in true Trotter style he welcomed some of Chicago’s most acclaimed chefs to cook in his kitchen for one final evening in his beloved space filled with friends, family and his culinary peers at a private event hosted by Coldwell Banker Previews and CS Magazine.

The event was held in the same dining room that over the years has accommodated many dignitaries and celebrities, such as Paul McCartney, Sting, Robert Redford and Michael Jordan to name a few.  The dining area features a Viennese Bierdermier style interior, banquettes with custom woven wall fabric that line the main 90-seat restaurant, silk draperies and plush carpeting throughout. The wine cellars are stationed throughout and can hold up to 10,000 bottles.  There are no statues or artwork, because Trotter felt as though the “food was the art, and the dining room was the canvas.”

A focal point of Charlie Trotter’s is obviously the kitchen, which boasts more than one million dollars of culinary equipment and is considered one of the most spectacular restaurant kitchens in the world. In fact, the kitchen is one of the few restaurant kitchens in the country with the tools comparable to a five-star hotel kitchen. Among its features are under the counter top refrigeration, self-cleaning water wash hoods, spring-loaded refrigerator doors, a stainless steel ceiling with smoke eating exhaust equipment to purify the air and eliminate airborne grime, deck lighting below the counters, and fluorescent and incandescent lights installed above the expeditor’s station, so that Trotter and his team of chefs could see a dish in the same light as a diner. The stove is a custom-made Bonnet Stove, which is one of the most expensive cooking ranges in the restaurant industry.

So, who will be the lucky new owner of this iconic landmark?  Although it is still too early to tell, Coldwell Banker listing agent Suzanne Gignilliat has an idea.  “This listing is unique and very special for many reasons,” she says. “It’s perfect for a top chef or restaurant group looking for an elegant space and state-of-the art kitchen located in a well-populated neighborhood, or for a buyer interested in a historically landmarked residence with ample space and storage. The properties can be bought together or separately.”

Click here for more information about this amazing property. 

Home Improvements that Give You the Most (and Worst) Bang for your Buck

Before you begin a home remodeling project, take a moment to consider its potential return on investment. If you are planning on staying in your home for more than ten years improvements should be made for your enjoyment and use.  But, if you are thinking of selling sooner than later, you may want to choose projects that will give you a higher return.

“A Realtor can help homeowners decide what improvements will provide the most return when it comes time to sell,” said Fran Broude, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.  “Each neighborhood is different, and the desirability and resale value of a particular remodeling project varies depending on where you live.” The 2013 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine reviews the percentage of a home improvement project’s costs likely to be recouped when the property is sold. Not all projects are created equal.

Five Best “Bang for the Buck” Home Improvement Projects:

1. New steel front door (source:

1. New steel front door (source:

  1. Homeowners who install a new steel front door will recoup 86% of their cost when selling. A brand new front door makes a great first impression.

    Nice vinyl siding (source: Terry Benske)

    2. Nice vinyl siding (Home listed by: Terry Benske)

  2. Replacing vinyl siding will recoup 65% of the cost. New siding is going to make a house look brand new and improve curb appeal.  Plus, it’s low maintenance.

    3. Remodel/update cabinets (listed by: Elizabeth Ballis)

    3. Remodel/update cabinets (listed by: Elizabeth Ballis)

  3. A minor kitchen remodel is a project that doesn’t have to cost very much if it is more of a facelift. Replacing cabinets or cabinet fronts, hardware, countertops, flooring and old appliances with energy efficient models can recoup 68% of the cost.

    Wooden deck (listed by: Carolyn Stangl)

    4. Wooden deck (listed by: Carolyn Stangl)

  4. Homeowners who add a wooden deck to their properties recoup 74% of the cost. Adding a deck adds value and allows for more outdoor living space.

    Replacing windows (listing: Chaz Walters)

    5. Replacing windows (listed by: Chaz Walters)

  5. Replacing windows will recoup 68% of the cost at the time of the sale. Not only does window replacement add value, it also is energy efficient and could offer you tax credits.

Five Worst Return on Investment Projects:

  1. Thinking of adding a swimming pool? You may want to think some more, pools only have an 8% cost recoup. You may enjoy it, however it will not add value to a home. In fact, pools can negatively impact a home’s value with the maintenance, heating bills and insurance costs involved.2. Home office 
  2. Surprisingly, adding a home office is more expensive than a minor kitchen remodel and typically would only give 37% value back when you sell. A new home office may make sense for you, but does not necessarily appeal to everyone.
    3. Sunrooms (source: Millbrook Architects & Designers)
  3. Sunrooms are beautiful. But, in these sunny spaces only 42% of the cost recouped. Again, it may only appeal to a select amount of people.

    4. Garage addition (source: Buffalo Architects & Designers)
  4. Garage additions only provide a 55% cost return.  Not everyone needs the extra space nor will it match the neighborhood.

    5. Master Suite(source: Vancouver Photographers)
  5. A master suite addition is a nice luxury, but will net only 57% of your return on investment. The expense of adding the luxury features of a walk-in closet, dressing area, whirlpool tub, a separate ceramic tile shower and double-sink vanity will recoup the expenses for the homeowner.

Inspired by a Quack

Duck Crossing

Guest blogger: Derek Light, Manager, E-Marketing 

light_derekThis a silly little story about how inspiration and creativity can come from anywhere.

I was driving into work and saw a duck standing on the side of the street on the crosswalk. I thought at first that was an interesting place for a duck. As I got closer he continued to stare at me as I passed, then he began to walk across the street. Odd – I thought.

I can assure you that I don’t know much about duck behavior, but this seemed weird to me. I thought to myself ‘That’s a bold duck.’ Two seconds later I was pulled over and firing up my GoDaddy app. Bold Duck would be an awesome name for something, anything and was available so I bought it right then.

Bold Duck Productions, Bold Duck Brewery, Bold Duck Children’s Clothes…it doesn’t matter what I end up doing with it, the point is to look around, inspiration is everywhere. 

Making a Connection between Passion and Career

2012 gala. Left to right: Paul Selden, Executive Director of Connections; Catherine Leonard, current Board President; and Jolie Horen, Immediate Past Board President

2012 gala. Left to right: Paul Selden, Executive Director of Connections; Catherine Leonard, current Board President; and Jolie Horen, Immediate Past Board President

Guest blogger: Brooke Balco, PR Communications Specialist

Most people can only dream of turning their lifelong passion in to a career. Catherine Leonard is one of the lucky ones, drawing a connection from her years of community service dedicated to helping the homeless to finding her clients the perfect home as a Realtor.  One thing has always remained the same- the importance of “home’.

Catherine began her crusade to help the homeless in 1984 while living abroad in Paris and London and later running the soup kitchen for the Grand Central Station parish of Saint Agnes in New York City.  She relocated to Evanston in 2000 with her husband and kids where she first learned about Connections for the Homeless, a local North Shore organization committed to preventing homelessness and preserving community.  Catherine currently serves as President on the Board of Directors for Connections, a one year term that began in October of 2012.

When Catherine made the move to the Midwest, she also made a major career move.  “In my years living in New York I had a successful career in advertising working for one of the world’s largest agencies.  My experience in the corporate environment was invaluable and continues to shape the way I manage my business today, and I knew that the skills I gained in advertising would transfer perfectly to real estate,” explains Catherine. “I decided to become a real estate agent because I knew that helping people find their dream homes could give me the sense of satisfaction I was looking for. It has been such a rewarding experience.”

Claire Sucsy Group

Claire Sucsy Group

As a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage since 2005, and joining the Claire Sucsy Group in 2011, Catherine found a way to leverage her affiliation with the company to raise awareness for her cause.  She introduced Connections for the Homeless to the Coldwell Banker Foundation in 2011 and the two organizations quickly became partners. The Coldwell Banker Foundation has since granted the charity with a total of $13,000.

The Claire Sucsy Group has become large proponents for the cause, encouraging others to get involved as much as possible. For the past two years the group has purchased a table at the annual Connections gala, and they have successfully rallied the management of Coldwell Banker to do the same. In addition, Catherine’s involvement with Connections led the Coldwell Banker Foundation to underwrite an ad campaign for Connections raising awareness for homelessness.

Catherine believes that everyone deserves a home, and they proudly continue to serve the community and their clients to help them achieve their dreams.  Catherine’s experiences and lifelong values have come full circle in connecting her passion and career.

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Waterfront Home

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– Guest blogger: Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist 

In our area, when you think of waterfront property your first thought may be Lake Michigan, especially if you’re looking for a vacation or weekend home. Karen Strohl, a Previews Property Specialist in New Buffalo, said her first question after a client says they’d like a “waterfront property” is “What type of waterfront? Are you looking for Lake Michigan, an inland lake or a river?”

Harbor Country, where she’s located, has some of the most amazing Lake Michigan waterfront properties, but the lakefront comes at a price so she makes sure to find the buyer’s price point and educate them on the type of properties that would fit into their range. For some, an inland lake may be a better value in terms of size, privacy and amenities. For others a country home would suit if it’s within a short trip of the lake.

If Lake Michigan is the waterfront property you desire, then then next question Karen would ask is, “What type of beach access do you want?” In Harbor Country, there are three types of beach access.. Which type of beach access appeals to you?

  • A waterfront home in St Joseph with Littoral Rights.

    A waterfront home in St Joseph with Littoral Rights. Listed by Donna Iwamoto & Karen Strohl.

    Littoral rights: Do you want complete privacy and control? Then you’ll need to ask for Littoral rights. It is the most valuable and ensures that you own the property and the beach to the high water mark. “Having littoral beach rights mean one is assured of privacy on the beach because one controls who is allowed on their particular stretch of beach.  Littoral beach rights guarantees a very low density of people using the beach, and Chicagoans love the luxury of space and privacy.”

  • Lakeside MI  home with an Association Beach

    Lakeside MI home with an Association Beach. Listed by Donna Iwamoto & Karen Strohl.

    Association beach: This is the second most valuable. It means you share a beach with a group of homeowners, but it is not public. It allows you to have a more private, less crowded experience.

  • Township beach: This means the beach is open for public use of the residents. It saves you money, but these beaches are generally more crowded.

Another question high on Karen’s list for a prospective buyer is “how will you be using the home?” There are some couples who want a cute little cottage where they can escape from it all without visitors. Others want a home that extended family and friends can use as a vacation or weekend home base.  There are so many options. For example, Lakeside has large homes with lawns and is a more formal community. Whereas Union Pier has a lot of cottages and is less formal. The experience ranges within from the Indiana border through to St. Joseph, Michigan.

One of the many reasons people love this area is that the “proximity to the city makes it very desirable.”  Karen herself is from Chicago and was charmed by the clean, white, fine sand beaches and how you can “experience a lifestyle typically you don’t have in Chicago.”

What is Depersonalization? Stage Your Home to Appeal To Buyers

Depersonalize Your Home Have you wondered, What is depersonalization? Also called staging, depersonalization involves creating a home that is inviting to a wide range of potential buyers. Your ultimate goal is to help the potential buyer visualize his or her new home in the house you’re selling. To effectively entice buyers, you want to remove anything in your house that would not appeal to another person. Keep in mind that your house will ultimately end up as someone else’s home and that person will have his own unique style and personal touches to add. Neutralize By removing personal items such as pictures and framed degrees along with utilizing neutral colors, it is much easier for home buyers to see how their own furniture and personal style would mesh with the house they are viewing. For example, vivid colors may only appeal to a few buyers. But by placing neutral-colored throw pillows on your couch and having complementary wall colors and window treatments, you create an inviting space for people of all tastes, from traditional to contemporary. For specifics on “what is depersonalization?” and how to incorporate this concept into your selling strategy, consider using some of the techniques provided below. Clean This should go without saying: Have your home thoroughly cleaned before showing it. A clean home is much more inviting and appealing to potential buyers than a home with dust, clutter, and dirt. Be sure to tidy up every morning or evening. For example, unwashed dishes in the sink, an unmade bed, and dirty laundry overflowing in a laundry basket are unappealing to potential buyers. Extra Touches

  • Make sure the trashcans are empty and the toilet lids are down. Remember to stow away grooming items such as toothbrushes and shaving kits.
  • Turn on some lights. In rooms without windows or rooms with heavy drapes, turn on lamps and recessed lights. An adequately lit home is warm and comforting to buyers.
  • Place flower arrangements in communal spaces such as kitchens, living rooms, and dining rooms. Fresh flowers bring a cozy, earthy feel into a home without being too personal.
  • Consider using mild air fresheners throughout your home, especially near trashcans, pet areas, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Avoid overpowering fragrances, though, as they may distract buyers.

By depersonalizing your home and appealing to a broad range of buyers, you increase the likelihood of receiving a viable offer and decrease the likelihood that your home will sit on the market for an extended period. *Originally Posted on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter 

Tips for Kid Friendly Home Decor Projects

Guest blogger: Brooke Balco, Communications Specialist 

School is out for summer and that can mean only one thing to parents-more time at home with the kids!  It’s the perfect time to get started on long overdue home projects that will take summer fun to a whole new level for the little ones in your life.  And, believe it or not, adding kid-centric features can actually be an asset to your home when entering the real estate market.

“Many young couples or first time homebuyers keep children top of mind while searching for their perfect home to suit their growing family,” said Fran Broude, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.  “They want a home that they can put their personal stamp on and that has functional and unique spaces that will accommodate their lifestyle.”

One way to get creative, yet functional in your home is by creating a magical place for your kids where they can be creative and let their imaginations go wild.

If finding extra indoor space in an obstacle, then why not look to the outdoors where options for a back yard “home away from home” are endless.  Whether it be a tree house, a whimsical play house, water park or jungle gym, this is the perfect way to keep the kids busy playing for hours on end.  If well maintained, a tree house can be used generation after generation in the family and create unforgettable childhood memories for your future grandchildren to come.

Have you been thinking about finishing your basement for years, but never got around to it?  Converting your basement or attic in to a massive play room is an easy and functional fix for extra play space, while adding value to your home at the same time.  Having everything compiled in one place with strategic storage friendly décor will promote organization and keep the rest of the house looking tidy.  Try adding plush storage ottomans and benches or a beautiful antique chest that can hold toys and games.  There are also great stylish and durable flooring options to help upkeep the area, like modular carpet squares that are easy to remove and clean or even replace if necessary, but still look fresh and modern.

Another option is to transform your child’s bedroom with affordable decorating ideas that will complement their personality.  Start by including your child in the planning process, choose a theme, and then incorporate their favorite colors and hobbies so that they feel cozy and comfortable in their new dreamy abode.  Sprucing up the walls is a good starting point and can change the entire feel of the room by adding pops of bright color, adding a custom painted mural or maximizing space by hanging shelves or even a chalk board for something fun and different.  A great way to remain budget friendly and personalize the space is to frame your child’s artwork to hang on the walls.

When a new home décor project gets under way, the key thing to remember is that it should be tailored to work specifically for you and your family’s needs.  Keep it fun, functional, and personalized.